This Life Is In Your Hands by Melissa Coleman
Author: Melissa Coleman
Release Date: April 10th, 2012
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Source: Copy provided by publisher for TLC Book Tours
I think most people have wondered what it would be like to untether themselves from their phones, stop wasting time for the daily commute or the multitude of other modern inventions and problems that can negatively affect quality of life. What if you knew exactly where your food came from and didn't have to worry every time you purchased meat or vegetables at the grocery store? For many the idea of homesteading is seen as living the "simple life," but author Melissa Coleman reveals that such a life is anything but in her memoir This Life Is In Your Hands.
"Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without," was the homesteading adage, and it served them well.Eliot and Sue Coleman, two young adults yearning to reject the constraints put on them by their middle-class upbringing, decide to set out for coastal Maine in an attempt to forge their own path by living off the land. After purchasing 60 acres from Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of the homesteading bible Living the Good Life, the two work tirelessly to build a house, a profitable farm, and create a happy home life for Melissa and her two sisters. Eliot constantly strives to attain his five year goal of making his farm profitable while Sue tries to find a rhythm cooking, cleaning, and raising the children. However, success and achievement don't always come without a price. Soon the Coleman's become the new faces of the Back-To-The-Land movement and begin receiving media attention. This prestige starts inspiring more individuals to make the journey to Maine to apprentice with Eliot adding to his already strained relationships. Coleman reveals the trials and tribulations of rejecting modern conventions and working the land in her honest, engaging memoir This Life Is In Your Hands.
"The reality of this way of life is that you have got to keep at it even when you don't feel like it," Mama wrote in her journal to ease her mind while Papa was outside. "Otherwise you won't make it. It's no life for dabblers. You've got to dig it wholeheartedly, for if you don't, you just simply won't be happy nor successful at what you do."One of the things that first drew me to this novel was the potential to learn a little more about the origins of the organic movement. I've become a lot more interested in where my food comes from and what I put into my body over the last few years. While a little dry at times, Coleman does a nice job of giving the basic background of the movement. At its heart, this story more about one family's joys, triumphs, pain, and heartbreak, so I wouldn't recommend this for readers who are looking for a more in depth look at the homesteading movement itself. While the beginning of the book lacked more emotion, I could tell that the writing was a cathartic experience for the author by the last third of the story.
Coleman's biggest strength is her writing. The readability was high with flowing prose and evocative descriptions. Symbols such as hands and water play a prominent part throughout and help add a slight literary tone to the writing. I also enjoyed the inclusion of details of the outside world at different points in time. Throwing in current events, music, politics, etc helped to set many of the scenes and give a reference for the year.
For much of the book I felt like I was reading a novel. Once she began writing from memory instead of telling her parents story the narrative soared. I think a key to successfully reading memoirs is being able to appreciate someone's life without necessarily judging every detail. The author didn't seem to judge her parents' actions or motivations, although I do wish she had revealed some of her personal feelings on growing up in such an environment and the possible effects such a life had on her once she became an adult and started her own family.
This Life Is In Your Hands serves as both a memoir but also a warning. You can't focus entirely on one aspect of life and continually neglect other areas. While I did enjoy the book, I felt that the story was more a biography of Sue and Eliot Coleman rather than a memoir. So much of the narrative highlights their journey and the consequences of their decisions. While not a favorite, Coleman's work is an engrossing, informative, solid read and.definitely a good choice if you're looking for a non-fiction read or have a particular interest in the movement.
Interested in learning more about Melissa Coleman? Check out her website and Facebook page!
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